Some 30 years ago the government of the day introduced allowances intended to reward excellence in the classroom. Today's government also desires to reward those performing well in the classroom; it is one of the criteria for judging how to award increments to teaching staff. The latest move in this direction is the introduction of half-point increments, with the suggestion that such awards might be given in order to keep the good teacher in the classroom, rewarding those not wishing to leave the chalkface of education, where they are at their most effective.
What is quite depressing to many teachers is the continuing and long-standing practice of heads and school governors insisting that any increments must be tied to extra, often extraneous, duties. On top of long service, good classroom practice, creditable exam results, respect from pupils, parents and colleagues, they are expected to execute tasks such as checking stock in the tuck shop, erecting tents on mountain sides, registering serial numbers of computers, moving furniture for parents' evenings, checking the tyre pressure on mini-buses.
Particularly galling to many staff is the procession of younger staff earning allowances which place them above their older colleagues in the pay lists; reaping rewards for what are, in essence, non-teaching skills. These same experienced, and by now less well-paid, colleagues are those to whom the youngsters turn for advice and support on all manner of educational problems. Heads and governors, too, expect loyalty and support from those to whom they have paid only lip service. Surely it's not beyond the capability of governing bodies to construct a reference grid against which classroom teachers can be assessed? By using a weighted points system for such criteria as length of service, examination results, appraisal reports, OFSTED inspectors' comments, pastoral skills and unpaid extra-curricular activities, an equitable measure of a classroom teacher's extra worth could be calculated to the satisfaction of all concerned.
Will classroom teachers ever be able to look forward to the day when heads and governing bodies tackle this difficult staffing problem directly? I hold out little hope, and strongly suspect that 30 years hence schools will still be avoiding this thorny issue.
Jeff Smith is a teacher governor in Lincolnshire